Special education students should be treated the same as their peers


Graphic by Max Wix

Patrick Brach

I started special education classes in the second grade at Lafayette Elementary School after being diagnosed with dysgraphia. When trying to learn to write, time and time again I would fail to meet the standards for proficiency. I would write my twos, fives, sevens, and nines all backward, and my handwriting wasn’t legible. I was held back that year, but nothing changed. Those numbers are still written backward.

Dysgraphia is the inability to write, and with it comes a lot of frustration. It’s more than just bad handwriting, it’s a motor and processing problem within the brain. However, the biggest frustration is not my own ability, but the treatment I receive because of it.

I’ve had a mixed experience at Wilson: certain teachers wouldn’t accept my work or be able to grade it based on my handwriting. Other issues have popped up due to my inability to put words on paper.

But then again, some teachers have been great in helping me to overcome my disadvantages. To me, these teachers are beacons of hope in this environment, but with overwhelming caseloads and a switch to a new student and new teacher every year, and sometimes even every advisory, it’s hard for the progress made to carry over. These problems don’t go away in a year. I’ve started to see some very real issues with the system at Wilson, and the deeper I look, the worse it gets.

The most noticeable issue is something that can only be seen from the inside, and stems from outside of the classroom. To be blunt, special education students are the laughingstock of Wilson. This might seem harsh, but at the same time, it is my truth.

I’ve been called terrible names, but it’s not just being called those things, it’s seeing how derogatory phrases towards kids with disabilities are becoming short for being called stupid. Children within the program feel embarrassed to be seen, they duck out of class early so that no one witnesses them there. The windows are blocked out with cardboard, which might be commonplace at Wilson, but I couldn’t help but feel like in our classrooms they were used to hide the identity of the kids.

It is not my place to speak for my peers, but these things all seem to add up to being shamed for who you are, your learning disability, or whatever reason you’re in these classes. I can’t blame the students for being ashamed, because when we leave the classrooms, we are attacked by a world where people call each other “sped” or “retarded” as insults. It’s frightening and discouraging to hear people use what you are, part of your identity, as an insult. I’m very open about my 504 plan with my friends, but even they crack jokes and mock me occasionally. Therefore, it isn’t hard to imagine why other kids would want some level of confidentiality.

Wilson’s atmosphere makes it feel as though you don’t belong, or like you are a second-class citizen. What all of Wilson needs to realize is that every kid in the smaller classrooms, every kid with two teachers in their class, every kid who has the teacher upset with them and always needs help, every kid who has special needs, is just as valid as you. And if you think they are lesser, then you’re the one with the problem.